Sustainability in Facility Management From Design to Operations

Joshua Colucci Joshua Colucci April 7, 2023

4 min read

By combining design and operational data, business owners and operators can identify opportunities to manage their facilities more efficiently and sustainably.

by Josh Colucci, Sr. Manager, AEC Alliance Program, Autodesk

Only a few years ago, the carbon impact of the built environment came as a surprise to many people. Today, it’s become common knowledge that buildings account for around 40 percent of global carbon emissions. The massive environmental impact of facilities is due to a combination of operational emissions and carbon released from materials production and building construction. 

Organizations need a way to leverage their internal data to overcome operational challenges and solve the workspace management issues that have lingered since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Through Autodesk’s alliance with Eptura, business leaders can get a better handle on both their design and operational data, helping their facility management efforts drive improvements in sustainability. Here’s how:  

Energy consumption—Design and construction data can be surprisingly helpful in improving operational metrics such as energy consumption. The as-built data of a facility outlines how systems like HVAC should be operating. By comparing these benchmarks to operational data, organizations can identify potential problems and work to solve them before they result in spiraling costs and negative sustainability outcomes. Consider something as simple as a stuck damper that causes a facility to pull in cold air from the outside at the same time the building is being heated. That’s a fairly common scenario, and it’s incredibly inefficient. The sooner organizations can identify these issues, the sooner they can improve energy efficiency and drive down their costs. 

Space management—Sustainability isn’t just about how efficient your HVAC system is, or whether your walls are insulated. Sometimes, things are much simpler than that. For instance, if a building is only 50% occupied on a regular basis, that will lead to wasted resources for heating and cooling (not to mention waste of building twice as much space as necessary in the first place). Even pre-pandemic, Eptura users often found that they were under-utilizing their building footprints. Today, after the rise of remote work, business leaders should be taking an even closer look at how they manage their space. One potential solution is hoteling: Rather than giving all employees their own dedicated workspace, organizations can provide, say, 100 desks for 150 employees, knowing that there will likely never be a scenario where everyone is in the office at the same time. 

UC Health is using tools from Autodesk and Eptura to help manage the organization’s portfolio of 12 healthcare facilities, including University of Colorado Hospital.

Health and wellness—Increasingly, the term “sustainability” has come to encompass not only environmental stewardship, but also human outcomes like health and social justice. Regarding the built environment, this means that organizations striving for sustainability need to prioritize the health and wellness of occupants. Metrics around factors like air circulation are important. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw some organizations using building management software to enforce physical distancing policies and ensure that no one was assigned to a workspace until it had been sanitized by cleaning crews. Along with operational data, customers can use design data from Autodesk tools to optimize their health and wellness programs. This as-built data provides leaders with a more comprehensive picture of the challenges and opportunities of the physical facility. 

Cleaning optimization—On the other hand, some organizations (especially those that aren’t yet maximizing their space utilization) may find that they are actually over-cleaning. If only a dozen people are present on a floor in a given day, that space probably doesn’t need to be cleaned two or three times. The use occupancy data can help to optimize cleaning programs.  

Green building efforts—In many organizations and industries, the pursuit of green building certifications such as LEED has become standard—either mandated by company policy or simply expected by stakeholders such as tenants, employees, and investors. The combination of design and construction data with operational information can help organizations to track and optimize their green building programs and ensure that certifications are actually helping to improve building performance. Organizations typically would not use this data in the actual certification process itself, but rather would use the information to assess their existing buildings and operations and provide benchmarks for improvements. 

Japanese homebuilder Daiwa House is using Autodesk tools, along with the Eptura tool Archibus, to unify design and operational data. “Archibus and Autodesk’s BIM-related products have been at the center of our strategy to bring the project model and asset operations together,” says Takaaki Miyauchi, a senior manager with the firm. “The investment Autodesk is making in Eptura will fully bring BIM to building operations, which is so important to the digital transformation of building operations and the future of the built world.”

Extending useful life—Anything organizations can do to extend the useful life of their built assets and avoid new construction will help to improve sustainability. Maintenance data is crucially important to extending the lifespan of buildings, as this information can help to optimize systems and prevent backlogs of deferred maintenance. Also, as-built data helps to inform the capital plans that keep maintenance programs on track. By analyzing and acting on construction and operational data, organizations can stay in their existing buildings longer. And, as the saying goes: The most sustainable building is the one that has already been built.

Consider your own organization’s goals regarding environmental sustainability. Whatever they are, the odds are that the data and processes resulting from the alliance between Autodesk and Eptura will make it easier to achieve them. 

To learn more about how the Autodesk and Eptura alliance can help, please visit our website and check out the videos in our YouTube channel playlist.

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